Thesis and Thesis Project

All public history students must prepare a Master’s thesis based on original primary research and complete a complimentary public history project. At the end of the first year, public history students will apply for candidacy on the basis of their thesis proposal as prepared in HIST 6693 (Historiography). The instructor of HIST 6693 and Director of Public History will then determine whether the student is sufficiently prepared to enter the thesis track. If deemed unprepared, students may be encouraged to pursue the traditional history track via the exam option, or to leave the program.

By the completion of HIST 6693 (generally the end of the first year), all thesis students must set up a Thesis Committee. This will consist of two graduate faculty members from the Department of History and a third member selected from History or another department. The advisor will be the primary instructor who oversees the student’s thesis work, while second and third readers may offer advice and read some of the thesis, although they generally wait to read a completed thesis. All thesis students will meet with their full committees at least twice–first to defend their thesis proposal at the end of HIST 6693, and secondly to defend the completed thesis and project. The Director of Public History need not be a member of a public history student’s thesis committee but will work with the student on her/his public history project and provide written comments to the student’s thesis committee in advance of any thesis defense.

Anatomy of a Public History Thesis

These are merely offered as some general guidelines and are the minimum requirements. Flexibility exists and many students have completed a more traditional History MA Thesis of greater length and a connected public history project.

Part I. Historiography or Review of Literature (10-15 pages)

In addition to the seminar paper, the public history thesis must include a historiography of your topic. This will look much like the historiography chapters of your peers who are working on a traditional master’s thesis. You are not required to have a separate historiography section but the thesis must be grounded in relevant historiography.

Part II. Scholarly essay (25-35 pages)

Any thesis in the master’s program must be based on original research and should add to the literature on the topic. This section will not only serve the purposes of the public history thesis, but would be an adequate writing sample should the student decide to pursue doctoral study. Finally, original scholarship is vital to the preparation of any historian, especially those who enter the field of public history.

Part III. Thesis Project

Students will develop a public history project in conjunction with their thesis topic and in consultation with the Director of Public History. Students may develop a historic preservation project, an exhibit for a museum or historic site, a website or online resource for an organization, or a short film or podcast series (though students are not limited to these choices). This project, which must be made available to the public, provides students with valuable experience in the practical application of scholarship, and prepares them to better serve the general public as they interpret that knowledge for a broad audience.